Author: Tite Kubo
Publisher: Viz Media (Shonen Jump)
Volume: Volumes 42-43 (ongoing), $9.99 each
Vintage: 2009 and 2010 by Shueisha, July 2012 by Viz Media
Genre: Action, fantasy, supernatural
First of all, sorry for the lack of review this past Friday. Got tied up with other things like getting ready for Anime Fest this upcoming weekend. Speaking of which, I’ll be attending this year’s Anime Fest here in Dallas over Labor Day weekend. Which means I may be skipping another Friday review, but next week I’m letting Drew take over with some reviews for me while I recover from the con and organize photographs and what not. Now, on to…more Bleach! I have a pile of these, now that they’re coming out so quickly, so I’m trying to catch up. If you’re not a fan of the series, I apologize for how much I’ve been reviewing it lately. I’ll move on to other things soon enough!
The focus is still on the battle in Karakura Town in volume 42. The Soul Reapers continue their battles with the Arrancars. Hitsugaya traps Halibel in a prison of ice. Omaeda and Soi Fon continue battling against Barragan, with Soi Fon finally pulling out her bankai, hoping to decimate him with a massive final blow. Shunsui steps up his game against Cowboy Stark, forcing the Arrancar to enter his true form by joining together with Lilinette. With Lilinette’s power, Stark can control duel guns that fire off powerful cero blasts. The guns’ blasts are more powerful than Shunsui expects, and Ukitake steps in to divert the blow. Ukitake insists that Shunsui keep his bankai in reserve, and allow him to deal with Stark and his guns. Just as Stark pins down Ukitake’s ability, a new player enters the field – Wonderweiss. The child-like Arrancar is a clear sign that Aizen’s patience is nearing its limits. Wonderweiss brings a truly massive Hollow along with him, promptly takes down Ukitake, frees Halibel, and is soon followed by Aizen himself, accompanied by Gin Ichimaru and Kaname Tosen. Just when it looks like the end is upon them, the Soul Reapers are surprised by yet another addition to the fray – Shinji Hirako and the Visoreds. Shinji has a quick word with the Captain General about his group’s intentions, but the conversation is cut short when Wonderweiss’s Hollow releases a massive amount of Gillians from its mouth. The Visoreds leap into action, with Shinji attempting to take the fight straight to Aizen, who is protected by Kaname. Komamura steps in to help, as Lisa and Hiyori go to aid Hitsugaya, Hachigen to help Soi Fon against Barragan, Rose and Love tackle Stark, and Mashiro takes on the massive Hollow.
As volume 43 kicks off, it is Shuhei who faces down Kaname, but the former Captain has a lesson to teach his subordinate. As Hitsugaya and Hiyori argue, Lisa takes on Halibel. But the bulk of the book is split between the battles against Barragan and Stark. Hachigen attempts to use his kido to trap Barragan’s powers, but the tactic fails, so he turns to Soi Fon for help. The Visored builds a massive shield around Barragan, allowing the power of Soi Fon’s bankai to be trapped inside and tear him to pieces. Furious at how badly the attack injured him, Barragan completely loses his reason and lets his power go wild. Hachigen pulls out one final trick, and turns Barragan’s own power against him, bringing an end to the God of Hueco Mundo. As Barragan crumbles, Aizen turns his back on the man he once promised power and a world to rule. Stark is relatively unmoved by the death of his fellow Espada, and disappointed that Barragan’s death seems to have had absolutely no effect on Aizen. His apathy rears its head, but just as he is about to give up and go home, Lilinette convinces him to get back up and finish the fight. Through playing games, Stark unleashes a literal pack of wolves on Love and Rose, but before he can deal his final blow, Shunsui gets back in the game. Literally, as his sword uses the rules of children’s games to defeat an opponent, although the rules can also work just as well against Shunsui, as Stark quickly figures out. As they battle in a deadly game of colors, Stark thinks back on his past and the incredible power within him that killed everyone he went near, leaving him alone until he split his soul with Lilinette…and was then picked up by Aizen. As his Espada fall, Aizen loses the last of his patience and takes down the final Espada himself, then challenges the entirety of the gathered forces to a final battle.
I can’t decide if I prefer this hyperactive back and forth battle style to just being able to watch a single battle play out consistently for a few chapters. It’s a little distracting, but it does keep the tension going. Which is great, since this battle is a very, very long one. By jumping back and forth between the individual battles, Kubo paints a frenetic pictures of the battle as a whole, as it should be. It gives the impression that each battle is happening simultaneously, which they are, so his pacing is certainly working. I can’t imagine having to read these chapter by chapter, though. Two volume chunks are about perfect, so although Viz’s release of the series is pretty insane right now, it’s actually working out quite well in terms of the story’s pacing. They’re catching up with Japan’s releases pretty quick, however, so I’m not sure how long this two-a-month schedule will last. Although…the series is also nearing its end, if I’m not mistaken. At any rate, this is another good set of volumes. Kubo is showcasing the Captains’ true strength, and it’s pretty impressive. Though it does beg the question – just how powerful is Aizen, exactly? We’ll be finding out soon enough, as he’s finally ready to square off against a rather sizable amount of enemies, with only Gin and Kaname at his side.
Review copies provided by Viz Media.